We are living in a time of profound spiritual and social ferment.  Many people have realized their lack of connectedness to others.  I suspect that they are (or will) realize that they need to find a much deeper relationship with God.  Right now, it may be difficult to pursue either social connectedness or a deeper spiritual life.  But when the crisis subsides, these are going to become more pressing issues than they were before the "virus crisis" came on.

What resources can your group of Friends bring to this quest for a more meaningful church fellowship when this becomes a priority for many seeking people, as it surely will.  Do we have anything unique to offer to those seeking a more profound church experience?  When I write "unique", I am not thinking of what any or all Christian churches can offer.

I sense that an immense evangelistic opportunity will soon come upon us if we survive the ravages of the virus.  What is that opportunity and what are we doing to prepare for it???

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Grace can take the form of danger and even disaster. "Apocalypse", after all, does mean "revelation."

What is happening now is an immense wake-up call to anyone who's been inclined "to put our trust in princes." Whether or not that makes for "a more profound church experience" is less important than whether our relationship with God takes us beyond prejudices & habits and frees us to a deeper collaboration with God.

A story from a woman I know: She was on a bus (before any of this started) where a handicapped man with an attendant was making horrible sounds in his misery. All she could think of was to say, internally, "God, comfort that man." The moment she did this he stopped moaning, sat up & started looking around. Was this a coincidence? It was clear to her that it wasn't. Was it something _she_ did? In her capacity as an isolated being, disjunct from God, clearly she  couldn't make this happen. But God set this incident up to show that there was a way people can be included in what God intends to happen.

Shouldn't we pray for a working knowledge of what we need for this?



William F Rushby said:

Hello, Forrest!  Thanks for your contribution.  I was feeling very lonely here, with only Keith Saylor for company on the present topic!

This morning, accidentally, I came across Walter Brueggemann, *Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks*.  Brueggemann published this volume in 2014.  It appears to be a reflection on how 9/11 impacted our society.  He called 9/11 a "defining dislocation," intensifying our sense of vulnerability.  I just discovered the book and haven't yet read it.

Viewing our present situation, I see the "virus crisis" as another defining dislocation.  It will sharpen our perception of the fragility and unpredictability of life, both personal and societal, not only in North America but globally.  And it raises for me questions about the impact upon Friends and their witness (or lack of witness?) to seekers in the larger society.  What is your take on this?

For sure it's a collective "learning experience." I hope it won't be used against us as 9-11 was, at least not so successfully. With this one it's all too clear that our enemy has been our own folly, ignorance of nature, our collective contempt and neglect towards the casualties of our way of life.

The impact on Friends, at least where I live, seems to be towards looking after each other. Likewise with Anne's Episcopal church.

Witness to what? I've been thinking that maybe we-all could use a 'testimony of God'.  Not a demand that everyone in our Meetings must believe some certain propositions in some certain way -- but advice that members expectantly consider what those of us who "know" God mean by the word. As with the Peace Testimony, we would inevitably include some members who hadn't 'got it' yet. But we need to stop being crippled by the notion that "that religious stuff doesn't matter."  (Probably it doesn't, not in the sense that God uses it to keep score. But for our sakes, it matters a great deal to know what's what and Who's Who in our lives and our universe -- and the long term Quaker position is that we have ways to seek and find that.)

Spiritually famished seekers are not likely to be drawn to meetings where "that religious stuff doesn't matter."

Non-seekers fleeing from dogmatic and judgemental churches do get drawn to nonthreatening Meetings that place little stress on "What's true in religion." They've been left with little interest in exploring that, and a strong inclination to resist anything that moves their Meeting in that direction. That works to keep things sterile there.

It needs to be very clear: that we're not going to start holding heresy trials. That no-one is being asked to "believe five impossible things every morning before breakfast." That there's good reason for taking new looks at what might be possible after all. For us -- that we need to trust God, not our institutions nor ourselves, to provide any conversions that might be appropriate.

|It appears to me that spiritually divided meetings are not in condition to do outreach.  Instead, they spend their energy (or need to spend it) to solve internal problems.  

"Now when the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ sent me forth into the world, to preach His everlasting gospel and kingdom, I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any.

"But with and by this divine power and spirit of God, and the light of Jesus, I was to bring people off from all their own ways, to Christ, the new and living way; and from their churches, which men had made and gathered, to the Church in God, the general assembly written in heaven which Christ is the head of: and off from the world's teachers, made by men, to learn [from] Christ..."

This does not sound like -- though it could lead to -- inviting people to join particular assemblies of worshippers. It sounds like helping people rely on the Spirit that might enable them to recognize each other across theological divides.

Forrest Curo does not cite the source of the passages he quotes here, but I believe they were written by George Fox; they exemplify his charismatic spirit.  To situate these passages in Fox's own biography, let it be noted that the gathering of a people was a central thrust of his ministry!  Lewis Benson probably "fleshes out" Fox's fellowship-building emphasis more than any other Quaker theologian: digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?...  In addition to gathering a people, Fox labored to define how they would function as a gathered body.  In Fox's time, I don't think membership was much of an issue.  The first Friends were so distinctive as a group that one could tell who was part of the group just by looking at them!  So much for historical context.

The Book of Hebrews cautions "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another..." Hebrews 10:25.  In my experience, only the likes of Keith Saylor can get along in his pilgrimage without a Christian fellowship to undergird his spiritual life and ministry, and even Keith finds some fellowship on QuakerQuaker, as many others do also!

Books have been written on "one anothering" as taught in the New Testament.  The volume I am most familiar with is by Simon Schrock, a Beachy Amish Mennonite author: see https://www.amazon.com/One-Anothering-Simon-Schrock/dp/0892212128.  The Quaker tradition has placed great emphasis on "one anothering."  A face-to-face, concrete and committed fellowship is foundational, not an add-on.

 In addition to gathering a people, Fox labored to define how they would function as a gathered body.  In Fox's time, I don't think membership was much of an issue.  The first Friends were so distinctive as a group that one could tell who was part of the group just by looking at them!  So much for historical context.

Books have been written on "one anothering" as taught in the New Testament.  The volume I am most familiar with is by Simon Schrock, a Beachy Amish Mennonite author: see https://www.amazon.com/One-Anothering-Simon-Schrock/dp/0892212128.  The Quaker tradition has placed great emphasis on "one anothering."  A face-to-face, concrete and committed fellowship is foundational, not an add-on.

Perhaps I'm merely a resident alien. When a teacher at Pendle Hill asked me about my "faith community" I couldn't think of one.

I continue to find Friends to be valuable "patience-teachers." That, I believe, is the chief virtue of being stuffed into a 'People' -- that it entails getting along with people we sometimes share viewpoints with, but never entirely so.

I don't agree with a Clerk who once described Fox as "bonkers". But I don't need to carry out Fox's program, just follow his example of making God the ultimate priority.

Um, something I read last night seems appropriate...

Ah! David Chadwick's _Thank You and Okay, An American Zen Failure in Japan_ :

"... am I a failure because I can't remember what Buddhism is -- and are all the rest of us failures, as it seems, when contrasted against our early pure and simple expectations and the clear-cut enlightenment of the story books? The Shimboji monks would say so. They'd say we were just wallowing in delusion and that if we were enlightened we'd understand everything completely...

"Anyway, it seems to me that all our endless failures are adding up to a magnificent success. It's just not what we had in mind. It's real."

Where it really gets apropos (even though it's talking about a disjunct between Japanese and American Buddhists):

"I think Nishiki picked up something from Katagiri, something I hadn't thought of -- They need us as much as we need them. I mean, they don't need us if they just want to be good Japanese monks and irrelevant to the present tense and the rest of the world. And we don't need them if we just want to be cowboy iconoclasts without regard for tradition and harmony -- but we need each other to get out of our ruts and get on with it, get on with creating this diverse unity."

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